Vince Hayward, CEO of L. H. Hayward & Company – Owner of Camellia Beans

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Vince Hayward, CEO of L. H. Hayward Company, brings passion and joy as he speaks of the many ways beans can enrich and nourish your life. A graduate of UL-Lafayette in Business Administration, Vince is a hands-on manager of the company which produces the iconic Camellia Bean brand.

The beginnings of this family business began in 1850 when his great-great-great-grandfather, Sawyer Hayward, relocated from Bermuda to New Orleans. A vibrant shipping port, New Orleans offered the Hayward family the opportunity to expand their trade capacity for sales of cotton and other dry goods. It was in the Caribbean Islands and the West Indies that Hayward first learned about beans and gained a fondness for them. He brought that knowledge to the U. S. and also began selling beans, along with other goods, in bulk.

In 1923, the company was formally organized and named Camellia after the favorite flower of the wife of L.H. Hayward, Jr. The Haywards supplied wholesale beans and other foods to local corner grocery stores and restaurants; over the years, their business focus narrowed to the distribution of beans.

Around 1940, when supermarkets were first coming about, William Gordon Hayward came up with the revolutionary idea to package beans in individual bags for sale directly to consumers. Post-WWII, as people had access to transportation and were moving to the suburbs, consumer sales of the individual beans took off. Today, 19 different varieties of beans are sold by Camellia, with over 80,000 to 100,000 pounds of beans packaged every day in its facility in Elmwood.

  • Allen Growe watches beans on gravity separator table. Photo by Brett Duke, Nola.com
  • Vanessa Smith prepares beans for shipping at Harahan facility. Photo by Brett Duke, Nola.com
  • Jarrod Carter stacking black-eye peas for shipping. Photo by Brett Duke

Camellia sources its beans from all over the U. S., and at times Canada if needed, and Vince explained that edible beans aren’t typically grown in humid areas such as Louisiana. From the time the beans are harvested from the field to the time they make it to your plate, the beans have been examined six to eight times in a mechanical, technological process, as well as inspection by the human eye, to remove foreign materials or filter out beans that do not meet rigid specifications relating to color or size. The Haywards have worked for generations to ensure that the product in the bag is the best it can possibly be starting with sourcing the best quality beans possible. Their growers have been supplying the product for generations and understand the quality Camellia expects for its brand.

The Hayward family supports a holistic approach to eating and beans offer just about the healthiest choice you can make in food. As Vince said, “Beans offer all the great things and none of the bad things. Studies show that three cups of beans per week can be life-changing for your health, especially gut health, which is crucially important, as the fiber feeds the digestive process.”

“Beans offer a dish that spans all boundaries of economics, race or geography. Everybody loves some type of bean. I love being a part of that. My dream is to have everyone in the country be a fan of red beans and rice!” Vince Hayward

There is a grassroots movement among home gardeners to protect the original sources of our food, as people became aware that over 94% of our unique seed strands for fruits and vegetables have been lost forever with the industrialization of farming. As consumers have come to understand the importance of knowing where their food comes from, so has the awareness of the need to protect seeds so that future generations may have access to a diversity of crops. LPB’s Christina Melton approached Vince and Camellia Beans for underwriting support of a documentary entitled “Deeply Rooted” which focused on the life of John Coykendall, a renowned heirloom seed saver and artist who has produced over 80 journals of pictures and stories about farming and growing techniques in Washington Parish in Southeast Louisiana since 1973. According to LPB’s website, “John saved and safeguarded rare varieties of the crops they once grew and handed them back to the community they came from. His work inspires us to reconnect with the land, with the seeds and growing expertise that our ancestors passed on to us, to grab hold and pass that legacy on to future generations- while there is still time.”

  • Display of bean crop by John Coykendall
  • Illustrations in one of 80 journals of John Coykendall
  • John Coykendall in Southeast Louisiana

One of the obstacles to people consuming beans is a lack of awareness of how to prepare them. Vince set out about five years ago to build a volume of recipes and ideas on how to prepare beans and incorporated a library of information on their website at https://www.camelliabrand.com If you’ve never cooked beans, the site presents a cornucopia of delicious ideas and tips on how to not only whip up a stunning dish but how to freeze meals for later consumption. Stunning photos will tempt you to try cauliflower lima bean au gratin, white bean basil and sun-dried tomato basil burgers, or of course, red beans and rice!

  • Cajun Garlic Shrimp with Cannellini Beans
  • Cauliflower Lima Bean Au Gratin
  • New Orleans Style Traditional Red Beans and Rice

Vince Hayward looks back on his time at UL-Lafayette as one of the best times in his life and his best friends from college are still here in Lafayette. He sees a parallel between New Orleans and Lafayette in the culture, love of family, and deep-rooted traditions that define each iconic place, and that is how he also sees the Camellia Brand. He is grateful to have the opportunity he’s been given to provide a service to his customers and work alongside his family. We thank Vince Hayward for sharing his story and the historic overview of the family behind Camellia Brand Beans!

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